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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why All Authors, Agents, Editors and Publishers Should Listen to ME

Here's the scoop. I do storytimes for seven hundred kids a week. That's four kinder classes, six first grade, five second grade, six third grade, three fourth and three fifth grade classes. Seven hundred kids. That's twenty-seven storytimes* a week. And I'm talking full-on, puppet-weilding, costume-wearing storytimes per week.


And it's not the same story every time, folks. Each grade-level gets a different one (thank goodness or I'd go crazy doing the same thing twenty-seven times.) Half of these stories are memorized (in the tradition of the old storytellers) and half of the time I showcase a book.

People, (especially, agents, editors, publishers and authors), I know what kids like.


Little kids like:

Funny stuff (Like the pigeon, etc. It is funniest to them if they are IN on the joke.)
Quiet books (Like Mama Do You Love Me, or Good Night Moon, or Litte Raccoon's Big Question) Books you can read in the softest of voices to great masses of kids. The kids are quiet because they can tell by the text that they should be.
Picture books that tell a great story but DON'T HAVE TOO MANY WORDS (Parents also tend to put down a book if there is too much text on the page....admit it, you've done it, too. That's because kids get restless.) A restless audience is no fun.
Books with Rhythm/predictable launguage/familiar structure (because they want to read with you before they can read by themselves...if they can predict what's coming, you get kid-buy-in.)

lder kids like:

Funny stuff (Like Captain Underpants and on from there....they like stuff that seems like it shouldn't be in a book.....they like to be humoruosly surprised.)

Fantasy books (Books that build worlds far, far away from school for them....but still have the kid element. Harry Potter is the classic example.)

School books (Like the Wayside School series. Books that are realistic, but not.)

Books that make them FEEL (Okay, really, kids want to love books. They do. Give them something that makes them emotionally respond. This is why Goosebumps and other Scary stuff is so popular. Being frightened is way better than being bored.)

I am the most accurate kid-book-test-marketer in the world!!

So, if I say kids love a particular book, I know what I am talking about.


P.S. So, if any agents, editors or publishers want any of my stuff, I can guarantee you that all of my manuscripts are kid-tested and approved!

*Okay, so with the older kids, we write a lot and don't have stories every week, but I ask them to show me the books they are reading for fun, so once again, I know what I am talking about. LISTEN!


Lisa and Laura said...

What an amazing job! Laura is going to drool with envy when she reads this post.

I love hearing about what kids like and don't like. Let us know if you have any insight on the 12 and older set.

Stephanie Faris said...

It amazes me, reading books to my niece and nephew, how many kids' books...well...suck! Two I love are Fancy Nancy and If You Give a Pig a Pancake. Pure genius...and both made me think maybe I'd want to write a children's book. But I stick with YA and adult because I feel it's better left to the pros!

Renee Collins said...

I love the title to this post. :D

By the way, looking at the picture on your blog title, I'm positive that you would have my five year old's undivided attention and delight. :)

Lazy Writer said...

I'd say you definitely know what you are talking about. Now, if you can just get everyone to listen. :)

storyqueen said...

L and L- When I reread the post, it sounds like I am a librarian, but I'm not. And there are days when the job is drool-worthy, and days when it is exhausting.

Older kids are in the group who want to feel. They don't want to be taught.......

Steph-Really, there are lots and lots of great kids' books out there. The bad thing is the the big chain stores don't always carry them. They like to carry what's safe, what they are certain will sell. Naturally. They are a business. That's what they do.

Renee: Thanks. I cracked myself up when I wrote the title.

Lazy:Well, EVERY agent, editor and publisher should listen, but then they'd have to be reading this blog. so maybe not.

Kelly H-Y said...

OK, I'm totally sold! Yes ... you definitely do know what kids are looking for! Awesome post!

Kim said...

Yes, Yes, Yes...they should listen to you! I was cheering from my desk chair at this advice:

"Picture books that tell a great story but DON'T HAVE TOO MANY WORDS"

OMG...YES! As a parent I go to the library w/a tote bag, pick a section of the PB's, sit on the floor, look for titles that sound like something that would interest my DD and then scan the book for the amount of words. If there are too many, back on the shelf it goes!

Tess said...

Love this post - I already imagained you in your costume, sitting on your story throne...but 27 times a week? Wow! That's impressive (and a lot of fun, I bet). You are living a life that must bring such joy. Kudos to you for following that dream and playing a bit along the way.

and, it's good to hear. I have a PB idea that is super minimalist on the wordage. Maybe someday...

Casey McCormick said...

Great post, Shelley. That's a whole lot o' stories! You're definitely the story queen.

Remind me to consult with you when I decide to finish one of my MG fantasies! : )

MG Higgins said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful information! It's very helpful.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

You know your stuff! I'd love to attend one of your storytimes.

storyqueen said...

Kelly- Thank you!

Kim-I knew I was not the only one! Thanks for stopping by.

Tess-Yes, 27 times....36 weeks a year. (On weekends I am very quiet because I am so tired of hearing ME).

Casey-You can consult with me any time!

MG- You are kind. I reread the post and I think I sound very bossy....oh well...

Dawn-Storytimes are never dull. I can promise you that!

Janet said...

I have a friend who is a story teller. It's true, you all do know what kids like. She's always telling me what would work well in a story for kids.

Amy Tate said...

Yes, I think you know what you're talking about, Miss Shelley! I would love to be a fly on the wall during one of your readings.

Anne Spollen said...

What a great job! It's true that you know what kids like - and don't like.

I'll bet you can read a story and be able to hear them cheer or go boo or yuck in spots before you ever get up in front of them.

Jenn Johansson said...

Wow! That is quite a way to get in touch with your audience. :) Maybe I'll drop you an e-mail the next time I think I have a killer idea. :) I can get official approval from an expert.

storyqueen said...

Janet-Thanks for stopping by!

Amy-Aw shucks. I promise if you could come, it wouldn't be dull!

Anne-Well, sometimes the kids surprise me as to their reaction. Those moments are the best!

Jenn-Feel free, any time!

Jessie Oliveros said...

You caught me. I will not check a book out of the library if it has too many words. Bedtime shouldn't take that long.

Paige Keiser said...

Fantastic post, thank you!!